A group of Rössing mine workers held a peaceful demonstration outside the labour commissioner’s office in Swakopmund on Monday where an arbitration hearing of their former colleagues who were sacked in September last year took place on the same day.
China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) Rössing Uranium Limited fired nine employees, who were also executive committee members of the Mineworkers’ Union of Namibia (MUN) at Rössing Uranium branch, for allegedly leaking confidential information to the media, breaching employment contracts and bringing the company’s name into disrepute.
However, MUN Rössing branch chairperson John Hamutenya called the allegations “unfounded and a witch-hunt”.
According to him, their trouble started when Rio Tinto sold all its shares to the Chinese outfit in July 2019.
“CNNC used every opportunity to suppress and threaten union rights by demanding to negotiate employment agreement to less favourable conditions,” he said in a written statement.
He added these negotiations included, amongst others, performance and conduct procedures, recruitment policy, retrenchment package agreement, conditions of employment, medical aid provider and salary scales. “Their negotiations failed and CNNC took the matter in their hands by unlawfully and illegally dismissing the branch executive committee,” he maintained. Briefing the demonstrators after the arbitration hearing which aimed to solve the dismissal of the nine employees, their representative Hewat Beukes said the hearing has been postponed to April, citing the sickness of a Rössing management member. “We notified them that we will not accept any further postponements,” he said.
Beukes further labelled the dismissal of union members “an attack on Namibian working class”. An employee, who preferred to remain anonymous, told this reporter working conditions at the mine were hostile. “We are afraid of speaking out, we are no longer represented,” he claimed. Members of the Affirmative Repositioning (AR) and the striking employees of Swakopmund Hotel and Entertainment Centre were amongst the sympathisers who came to stand in solidarity with the dismissed employees.